Uncategorized

Winter in Canberra

I usually go away for a holiday during the Canberra winter, but not this year. And I’m actually loving it. It SNOWED in Canberra this week and that made me very happy. I woke up at 5am to see the soft snow blowing around in the wind and falling on my garden. And as the morning light appeared, I stared, mesmerised by this rare event—like a cat on a window sill—until the snow was all gone. Canberra is so beautiful at this time of year. There’s outdoor ice skating in the centre of town, food festivals, markets, and lots of open spaces to run around and catch Pokémon.

Though I miss the absence of flowers, as there aren’t too many weddings and markets this time of year, it’s nice to be able to live a normal life for a change. It’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally worked out how to have a work-life balance. I’ve been resting, catching up with friends for coffees, playing my piano, cooking new recipes, and shopping for clothes! All things I never usually have time for.

winter 1

Snow in my back yard 

One particular shopping score I’m particularly happy with is a blue bag with a hydrangea print I bought from the National Museum of Australia (NMA) shop. I was at the NMA for a casual meeting, and it ended up becoming an unplanned shopping spree—the shop had 20 per cent off everything, so that was a good incentive! Soon after, I bought a dress from Review, not necessarily to match the bag but that also happened to also have a hydrangea pattern on it. I plan to wear this dress to a Floral Art Association event in August.

winter 3
winter 4

I’ve also taken the opportunity during this quiet period to do a lot of paperwork. I love playing with flowers and gems, but having a business means that I also have to keep on top of my tax and other paperwork, sigh. My lovely accountant has tasked me with doing a stocktake of my beads and silk flowers. I’ve been collecting beads since I was a teenager so the task has been very daunting, but I’m getting there!

I’ve also decided to build an online shop on my website for my jewellery, which is taking a lot longer than I thought it would, and is also a bit stressful. I’m not a fan of being cooped up at home in front of the computer, so to make things more bearable I’ve been taking my laptop to the National Arboretum Canberra so I can enjoy the views while I work.

Once I get on top of my paperwork and the online shop I’ll be able to start creating again—I can’t wait! I’ve got boxes of new silk flowers, and have ordered new gems. They’re all just sitting there waiting for me. This down time has helped give me some perspective, and I’m grateful for that.

Thank you to the brides out there who have been contacting me for consultations for their weddings during this quieter time. It’s nice to have one flower-related thing I can work on during this cold period.

winter 2

The Botanical Jewellery Series

Every year, I always try to do something new. This often ends up being something that requires me to learn a little something, and invest a lot! For example, in 2014, my first year running my business, it was making paper flowers. I learnt how to construct them, and bought lots and lots of tissue paper, bottles of bleach, and even a paper cutting machine. Last year I had the amazing opportunity to be involved in Fashfest, which led to me learning how to handle silk flowers and create fashion pieces with them, including buying and using new tools, and a LOT of silk flowers. This year, I’ve decided to focus on further developing my jewellery making skills and using higher value materials. I work a lot with artistic wire, and I absolutely love it with all my heart. But as I’ve improved my techniques, I’ve become more interested in making jewellery that my clients will be able to keep and cherish forever because of their higher level of workmanship, value and beauty.

I’ve invested in buying amazingly beautiful gems and learning how to work with sterling silver wire. Making the change from working with artistic wire to silver wire feels like learning to walk on a tightrope. I have to try and keep the wastage of wire to an absolute minimum because of the value of sterling silver. It’s difficult, so I have to carefully watch what I’m doing to try and avoid making silly mistakes.

This year I’ve also been very inspired by a book that my husband gave me at Christmas, Flora: The Art of Plant Exploration, by Sandra Knapp. It’s a beautiful book that explores the history of plants and flowers through botanical illustrations and essays. At Christmastime, our family friend Meg noticed that I couldn’t put the book down and said I needed to do something with the pictures in it. At the time, I couldn’t think of what to do, but now that I’m moving to making precious jewellery, they fit together perfectly.

My idea is to take the ‘essence’ of the floral pictures and translate them to jewellery, primarily in the colour and arrangement of gemstones. Botanical illustrations are a perfect medium to gather inspiration from because they tend to show off subtle features of plants quite bluntly.

DSC_3478

I’ve been enjoying this jewellery making process immensely. One of the first pieces I made in this series is a necklace based on an image of a stem of a white magnolia flower. Magnolia leaves are unique in that they have a strong shiny dark green top that faces the sun, with an underside that’s a softer velvety brown texture. Translating this into jewellery, I found that the dark green of the leaves matched perfectly with rutilated moss gemstone and dark green tourmaline, and the brown underside with beer quartz. I represented the amazing grandeur of the pure white magnolia with a moonstone. And finally, because the magnolia flower is quite fleshy, almost lustrous in a way, I decided to include a freshwater pearl.

DSC_3505
DSC_3496
DSC_3482

The metal component for this piece, and this whole series of jewellery, is predominantly oxidised sterling silver. I was excited to learn how to oxidise silver. After oxidising the silver, I also polished it slightly to give it a touch of silvery shine against the dark grey. At this stage I think this is the best colour to highlight the colours of the gemstone, and it looks great against paler skin.

When I finished this necklace, I felt like I could almost smell the fragrance of the magnolia. That’s when I knew I was satisfied with the end product. I then showed it to some friends and asked for their opinions. One of them commented that it was like a metaphor for a flower that lasts forever, which I think is just beautiful.

I’ve now made a few jewellery pieces in this series in preparation for the Handmade Market this weekend. More often than not, I’ve found that the colour of the gemstones and the illustrations match perfectly. I find it so amazing that nature can find a way to repeat itself in the most wonderful form. It’s filled me with so much happiness to be able combine flowers and jewellery—two of the things I love most—together. I have a feeling that this project may never end.

I’ll be showing (and selling) my new series of jewellery at this weekend’s Handmade Market. I'm aiming to have jewellery made based on 10 different flower illustrations before the weekend! I can’t wait to see what you all think of it, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

DSC_3500

Stefanies Flower Dress

In the midst of Valentine’s Day week and wedding excitements this month, I also patiently worked on a custom dress for a very unique bride, Stefanie, with Rachel from One of a Kind. Rachel made the dress ‘base’ while I created a flower skirt to go over it. Rachel also very kindly made me the peplum base for the skirt. The silk flower-covered skirt is detachable so the bride can put it on and take it off the dress as she pleases! Stefanie decided on a flower dress because she felt the dresses she saw in shops or online just didn’t feel right for her. She said she wanted to feel like she had fallen asleep in a meadow and woken up covered in flowers. That type of imagery certainly sparked my imagination!

1

Rachel and I designed the skirt so the peplum sat above Stefanie’s hips and the flowers were in different shades of white. My strategy in the placement of flowers revolved around their volume. Because the flowers would start above the hips, it was important for the flowers at the top to be as small as possible, with the size of the flowers gradually getting bigger as they moved down to the bottom of the skirt.

2

I made the base layer of the floral detail by cutting out individual hydrangea petals and attaching each one on the peplum base to create a flat, yet soft and feathery look. It was repetitive work, but needed to be done with precision, which meant concentration. I felt like this must be a tiny window into what it’s like to create a couture piece for Dior.

Next, I arranged the main flowers on the skirt, from smallest at the top, with the volume rising towards the bottom. After these were in place, I covered any blank spaces with more hydrangea florets until the skirt was nice and full. Finally, I embellished the skirt with smaller flowers, placed randomly around the skirt to break up the rhythm and add a more organic look and feel.

It took me about seven working days to make the skirt and I honestly couldn’t be happier with the result! Every time I caught a glimpse of it I found myself wanting to look at it for longer.

20160223_1726582

I can’t wait to see Stefanie in her flower dress—combined with her heels and veil, she’s going to look amazing! Thank you Stefanie for asking me to create this special piece for you, and huge congratulations on tying the knot today!

20160224_102846 cropped

Post Valentines Day Awesomeness

webIMG_0811

I’m so excited to tell you about how my Valentine’s Day plan went! So after my husband and I finished delivering flowers on Valentine’s Day, I spent the rest of the day in my workshop, making the posies for the Canberra Hospital. It was a very hot day and I struggled to keep the flowers perked up, and had to throw out some of the ones that wilted. Thankfully, I had enough flowers remaining to make 24.5 posies of my target of 25 (yay!) .

One unexpected thing that happened during the ordering period up to Valentine’s Day was that I had orders from people who wanted to donate flowers to the patients in aged care without ordering a Valentine’s Day bouquet for someone else. I also received an order from an anonymous person who bought a large bunch of flowers to be directed to the oncology patient with the least visitors. These gestures were really beautiful.

On the big day, I was happy to see a white cloudy sky when I woke up, because it meant it would be cooler and the posies would be ok. Accompanying me to the hospital to help me distribute the flowers were some volunteers from church—Amy, her mum Judy, and 10 year old Nate.Before we delivered the flowers, we sat in the café to write messages on the cards to go with the posies. We sat there thinking for a while about what to write, and looking up possible Valentine’s Day quotes to use. We finally realised that a simple message was best, and went with “Dear…, wishing you much love and joy this Valentine’s Day, from us”.

flowers to go!

Flowers are all packed ready to go!

volunteers

Amy, Nate and Judy- writing cards together in the cafeteria.

Once we were done writing the cards, the Canberra Hospital Foundation (CHF) representative, Caitlin, led us to the ward. She introduced us to Marie, one of the staff, who would help us distribute the flowers. We split into two groups to give out the posies; I went with Marie and Caitlin while Amy, Judy, and Nate went with another staff member.

The aged care ward was very different to what I imagined it would be. There was a very busy office/admin area in the heart of the ward, surrounded by rooms containing about four beds separated by curtains. The first person we went to was a man sitting on a chair next to his bed. Marie politely said, “We’ve got something special for you today!” His response was, “Flowers? What for? I don’t need any flowers. Give them to someone else.” Though I’d mentally prepared myself for the possibility of such a reaction, my heart sank a little at his words. Nevertheless, we left his posy on the table next to him.

We continued giving flowers to the other patients in the room (where they were well-received). Just as we were about to leave, the first man called out to us. “Can I say something?” Marie, Caitlin and I turned around, surprised. He continued, “These flowers, they remind me of my wife who passed away one month ago. She loved flowers.” His face and attitude changed after he said that, and we had a nice chat with him. Caitlin convinced him to take a photo with me, and he even told us a joke before we moved on.

webIMG_0816

The rest of the patients we gave posies to were happy to receive them. One woman was so pleased that she couldn’t stop smiling and staring at her flowers, repeating, “Beautiful” as she looked at them. She told me that she used to be a pianist and a ballet dancer and only retired four years ago. I’m glad I made an effort to make proper mixed flower posies for the patients, as I noticed a number of them reciting the names of the flowers when they looked at their posies: roses, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemum.

webIMG_0822
webIMG_0814

Another patient that made an impression on me was a woman who was in a room of her own. Her son was there visiting and he was wearing a yellow disposable shirt over his own. Caitlin told me that it was to prevent infections from spreading to his clothes. Marie put on one of the yellow shirts and gave the flowers to the patient. When the woman saw the flowers and was told they were from me, she looked at me from her bed with her hand raised, but she couldn’t sit up or say anything. I started chatting with her son and Caitlin, but she made an effort to draw my attention, so I decided to put on a yellow shirt and spent a little time with her. While we couldn’t really have much of a conversation as she had difficulty hearing and talking, I could tell she was really taken by the red roses in her posy by the way she reacted to them.

webIMG_0830

I feel like flowers spread a universal feeling of happiness from their beauty, and this visit to the hospital really showed that. Towards the end of my time there, Marie said that the patients’ faces were really ‘lit up’ by the flowers. Surprised, I said, “Really?” Marie’s response was, “Well, they certainly don’t look like that when I come in the room! Some of those patients will look at those flowers the whole day.” I also noticed that when I gave each patient the personalised card with the flowers, they were really appreciative of the personal touch, even though the message was very simple. Little Nate also provided some entertainment for the patients by showing off his juggling skills. He’s been learning from his dad and YouTube, and is very good at it!

webIMG_0844

It was a wonderful experience and I came out of it thinking that this is what Valentine’s Day should be like every year: sharing love with people who need love.

I have so many people to thank for making this happen. Thank you to everyone who helped me promote my idea on social media by sharing my posts, and to everyone who bought or donated flowers. Thanks to Lauren from Indigo Rose Design who helped me put some of the posies together while. Thank you to Amy, Judy, and Nate who helped give out the flowers and spent time with the patients. Thanks to Caitlin for my being contact person at CHF and taking these amazing behind the scene pictures. Thanks to my mum for being the financial safety net. And finally, thanks to my husband Greg for reassuring me that I was making the right decision, especially when I was feeling nervous about it, and of course to the CHF for the opportunity to make my idea into reality.